If you need to build something, you need a plan, and a movable chicken coop is not an exception. There are a gazillion chicken tractor plans. But out of all the plethora of options, there is always one that always feels and looks like you. The difference comes in how to select the best one for you. But one thing applies to everyone: your chicken coop must be predator-proof. It should keep away large predators like raccoons, foxes, and roaming dogs. But what kind of chicken tractor can prevent the stubborn varmints from harming your chickens?
Your most ideal chicken tractor plan comprises of a pocket-friendly, ultralight weight, and sturdy pen. It doesn’t just give you the biggest bang for your money, but it’s easy to pull and gives stubbornest predators the hardest time. It’s a chicken pen that anyone who lives in a city or farmland can use. If you keep chickens and you would like to learn all about the chicken tractor, this is the best place to begin the conversation. In this article, we will tell you what exactly a chicken tractor is and what you need to consider before you build or purchase one. Also read best chicken Plucker.
What is a Chicken Tractor?
It’s a movable chicken coop. It’s where your chickens roam, roost, and feed, all under one roof. Whoever called it a ‘tractor’ did so because of its excavator-like effect on the soil. It left it bare. But instead of the mechanical excavator, it was the chicken doing the excavation. Chickens are known to scratch and peck at grounds to look for bugs, insects, grass blades, and worms and feed on them. These feathery animals use their beaks to not just peck at the delicacy, but to dig, as well. Chickens have extra-sharp claws on their toes to scratch the ground and fight.
It’s the claws that do the job of laying bare the ground. And so, a chicken tractor is not a fantasy farming vehicle that a chicken operates. The chicken excavates the ground, but it’s you who carts the pen around. And this portable chicken coop isn’t just a sanctuary; it’s a factory of compost manure. Also, chickens eat bugs and weeds, and so they control pests. But why is it necessary to move the chicken residence around? Chickens scratch the ground hard.
If you are a gardener, chicken tractors are the most effective way to prepare the ground for gardening. But if you leave your feathery friends to scratch beyond what’s necessary, the outcome won’t please you. Not only would they make your soil barren, but they would completely strip it of the vegetation. Therefore, it’s wise to move the chicken coop from time to time and from place to place on your turf to give plants enough time to grow again.
What Makes Up the Chicken Tractor?
Two parts make up the portable chicken coop: the coop itself and the run. A chicken tractor is an extension of the immobile coop. It’s the run that’s a space that gives your chickens the freedom to roam within a designated area. A chicken tractor solves the worries of allowing your poultry the freedom to roam while keeping predators at bay. Thus, the run is that space around the coop where chickens spend their time during the day. Chicken wire covers the sides and the top while the bottom remains open to earth for the chicken to forage. The coop is a space, too.
But it’s home: a place where chickens lay eggs, roost after a long day, and seek refuge from weather elements and dangerous predators. It can be an open or closed plan. The bottom of the coop of an open plan structure is exposed. And because a solid floor is absent, predators can easily sneak in from beneath. You can choose to raise the coop by 6 inches, or rest it on the ground. A wooden floor makes a lot of sense for a raised coop. If the coop rests on the floor, a dirt floor is suitable. If your budget allows, you can pour some concrete on the floor and install electricity.
To maintain egg incubator during winter, a low-watt bulb can reduce the night. But it must come with a roof over the head of your cock-a-doodle-doo companions. You can install a ramp to bridge the height, so your birds can access the nest boxes and perches on the top. Straws should fill each nest box to the brim. And attaching thin pieces of woodwork separated by six inches along the top can prevent sliding when the ramp gets wet. And the good thing with raising the coop is that chicken can seek shade underneath it when the weather gets hot. There must be a latched and hinged door where you can access the inside of the coop for cleaning the nests and perches and collecting the eggs by hand.
This door must occur opposite to another door on the coop to give the chickens the freedom of movement. Use a 1-by-2s plywood frame to make the door. It should be big enough for you to enter and exit the nesting area comfortably. In areas with high predator pressure, a closed plan makes lots of sense. Raccoons, bears, cats, or roaming dogs can even overturn the structure. It’s these same culprits that burrow the soil beside the structure to gain entrance from beneath. And that makes them particularly dangerous given that the chicken tractor has to be lightweight and the bottom has to be open. With a closed coop, you can be confident your chickens would survive when the predator exposes their hideout.
Chicken farmers are also ditching chicken wire mesh for a small-mesh hardware cloth. Why? Because some sly predators have discovered a way of sticking their arms and grabbing and pulling their prey to the sidelines where they devour them. Recently, there has been a trend toward building an apron around the chicken tractor to catch the predator off-guard. They bury the small-mesh hardware cloth one foot into the ground around the pen to discourage burrowing predators like raccoons and skunks. What makes the chicken coop portable is its wheels. Otherwise, it would take you a herculean strength to cart it around. And so, wheels are crucial components of the mobile pen.
Why is it a Better Option Than an Immovable Chicken Coop?
You benefit from free compost manure. Chicken poop and pee contain nitrogen and phosphorus, which enrich the soil. Chickens are sort of lawnmowers. They eat the delicate tips of grass blades, and they uproot weeds – for you! And all these are courtesy of their sharp beaks and ultra-sharp claws. As a gardener, you will find delight in the chicken tractor. Chickens scratch to uncover the topsoil for worms, slugs, bugs, snails, or insects. These natural delicacies are nutrient-rich and provide them with a wide array of gourmet options on their menu.
Evidence indicates free-ranging hens lay more flavorful and nutritious eggs than industrial birds. You’ll find four times as much Vitamin D, three times Vitamin E, and seven times beta carotene in eggs laid by a free-roaming chicken than the caged counterpart. And so, a chicken tractor brings more nutrition to your dinner table. All you need to do is to keep your chickens safe and happy. And the best way is to construct them a secure home.
What You Need to Consider Before You Build and Buy a Chicken Tractor
Sketch of the Chicken Tractor Plan
You need to have an outline of the whole frame. There is at least one plan among the plenty of options that is most suitable for your budget, needs, and situation. It should give you an overview of the terrain, direction of sunlight, drainage, nearby structures, and predator pressure.
Size and Number of Chickens
How big are your chickens? What breed do you keep? Chicken size can range from small to bantam to large. If you know the size of your chicken, you can estimate how many can fit in a portable coop. Budget for big space if you rear large breeds like Brahma, Jersey Giants, Orpington, and Cochin. Chickens are sociable creatures like humans. Overcrowding can cultivate anti-social behavior.
When small space hard-wires them to anti-social habits, peck-fests can ensue, causing injuries. Plymouth Rock, Rhode Island Reds, and Polish aren’t as big as the likes of Brahma, but they are a worthy consideration. However, for the same area, you can keep more of them, but less than the likes of Silkie and Japanese Bantams. The smallest breeds consume two square feet of floor area per chicken. Four small breed chickens would consume eight square feet of floor area. Each bird also consumes 144 square feet of the nest box area.
When you raise the coop, the next box won’t rest on the ground. And so, when you allocate the floor area, the total area covers the space beneath the coop or the nest box. Not to mention, birds require roosting bars. The smallest breeds each require an 8-inch long roosting bar. You can also suspend water supply and feeder above the nesting box to keep your birds from thirst at night and hunger early in the morning when you haven’t woke yet. The smallest bird requires four square feet of free-roaming area in the run.
Designs come in a myriad of shapes and sizes. They can be circular, rectangular, or triangular. You can make circular designs from wooden or metal barrels. You can modify the cylindrical part to a nesting area or coop. And then you can raise it and connect it with the run using a ramp. Triangular and rectangular designs are more common than circular designs. At the base of the frame, there are beams whereby you can attach wheels or slides. If you opt for the slider frame, you can imitate the sled or ski whereby the curved front tip faces the direction of pull.
Then, you can attach a chain, cable, or a heavy-duty rope to the lighter end of the frame opposite the coop and use a bicycle, tractor, or hand to pull the whole structure. The only letdown with the sled design is low clearance on an uneven surface. When you mount wheels on every corner of the frame, a small gap between the frame and the ground arises. This gap is big enough and is tempting to predators and vulnerable chickens. And the problem can worsen if the ground is uneven. And so, you must find materials like a heavy woodblock to fill these gaps.
But these can be inconvenient when you want to pull the frame because they lower the clearance and add unnecessary weight. You can mount two wheels on the heavy end of the frame while the light end rests on the ground. Wheels give better clearance and maneuverability than sliders, but less security. Some chicken tractor plans are enterprising. They allow you to raise or lower wheel height to combine sled-like and wheel-like experiences.
Depending on your budget, you can make a steel or wooden frame. Steel frames are pricier and heavier but sturdier and more durable than wooden frames. They are also more predator-proof. Lighter chicken tractors are more gentle on your muscles and tendons, but larger predators can turn them over. Polyvinyl chloride is much lighter than wood. When it comes to roofing panels, tin is much more preferable to iron sheets. Dirt, concrete, and wood are suitable for making solid floors.
Your birds need to breathe fresh air all the time. You can drill small holes on top of the coop or close to the ceiling to boost air circulation. But predators can take advantage of these openings. Use chicken wire to cover the holes. These covers must be shuttable. When the winter season bites, the cold air won’t get in. You can even install one-and-a-half-inch dowels near the ceiling to encourage the chickens to roost on the perches when the temperatures fall below 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
Size of the Chicken Tractor
It’s not just the material makeup that determines the weight of your movable chicken coop. Size is another important. The larger it is, the more materials; hence, heavier. And weight determines what kind of wheels that can withstand it. For small chicken tractors, use lawnmower wheels. Garden cart or wheelbarrow wheels can serve anywhere between large and small frames. Use vehicle, trailer, or tractor tire for heavy chicken tractors.
Chicken tractor plans outline flock size, construction materials, frame size, ventilation, design, and sketch. The ideal chicken tractor is pocket-friendly, lightweight, and varmint-proof. In reality, no portable chicken coop can encapsulate all these desirable characteristics. A lightweight coop is gentle on your muscles and tendons, but large predators can turn over or tear down the structure. A more varmint-proof pen requires sturdy materials that are a bit pricey and heavy. All in all, it all boils down to your needs and budget.